Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a complex hormonal condition, it is becoming more common, with current Australian statistics showing 12-21% of women of reproductive age have it & up to 70% of women remain undiagnosed.
Despite its name, PCOS actually has nothing to do with cysts on the ovaries, rather it can best be defined as an androgen excess condition.
The following are the common symptoms & presentations of PCOS –
· Irregular periods absent periods
· High androgens – present in blood test
· Insulin resistant – measured in a blood test
· Cystic acne
· Hirsutism & male pattern balding
· Metabolic features such as obesity & diabetes.
· Psychological symptoms associated with the condition – anxiety, depression, eating disorders.
To treat something, you first need to know what is the cause or driver of it, then you can evaluate what is the best way to treat it.
There are 4 different types of PCOS – finding out which one you have is the first step to treating it -
1) Insulin resistant PCOS – the best way to test for this is to measure insulin not glucose levels in a blood test. It is also important to rule out any other reasons for excess androgens before the PCOS diagnosis.
2) Inflammatory PCOS or chronic immune activation – chronic inflammation can stimulate the ovaries to make too much testosterone. Other symptoms commonly seen with this type of PCOS can be recurring infections, joint pain, skin conditions & headaches.
3) Post pill PCOS – which is a temporary condition – Hormonal birth control supresses ovulation thus it is pretty common to experience a temporary surge in androgens when coming off the pill. The issues lies when this ovulation -suppression persist for months or years.
4) Adrenal PCOS – this occurs when you only have elevated DHEA but normal testosterone & androstenedione – it is the least common PCOS diagnosis. It is a genetic condition linked to an abnormal response to stress.
As mentioned above it is imperative to find the driver of PCOS so as to be able to treat it appropriately, nevertheless the following are some basic lifestyle & dietary advice which will support healthy hormones –
· Avoid inflammatory foods such as dairy, wheat & sugar
· Heal the gut – treating dysbiosis
· Reduce stress
· Boost metabolic rate – healthy weight control
· Reduce exposure to environmental toxins – particularly plastics & pesticides.
· Buy organic produce
· The Mediterranean diet is a well research diet that has good effects on treating & supporting PCOS recovery. This diet focuses of plenty of high fibre foods, omega 3 fatty acids & minimul intake of animal protein.
· Diet high in Omega 3 fatty acids – hemp seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, avocado, chia seeds.
· Spices such as cinnamon & turmeric which have an anti-inflammatory effect whilst also supporting blood sugar levels.
· Supplements such as magnesium, vitamin D, chromium, zinc, vitamin K & herbal medicine are also very important in treating PCOS. Always seek the advice of your natural health care provider before starting any supplement!
If you suspect that you may have one of the forms of PCOS, I recommend getting a blood test from your doctor & then booking an appointment to find a natural approach to PCOS support.
In health & happiness
Sarah Emily Herbalist